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Family justice reforms put children’s need first

22/04/14

The Children and Families Act 2014 will put children at the heart of the family justice system…

In 2011, an independent review chaired by David Norgrove into the family justice process found that the system was failing in complex family cases. Excessive delays to proceedings hindered and damaged the children caught up in the system. On average, the review found that care and supervision cases were taking an around 56 weeks to complete.

Discussing this, Family Justice Minister Simon Hughes said: “For too long children have suffered from excessive delays and confrontational court battles. Our reforms will keep families away from negative effects of battles or delays in court and make sure that when cases do go to court they happen in the least damaging way.”

Approximately 270,000 new cases go through family courts every year. New reforms will be implemented today (22 April 2014) to help keep these cases moving quickly and efficiently through the system. One of the main priorities of these changes is to ensure the focus is on the child’s needs, rather than parental rights.

“These reforms mark a significant moment for the family justice system, when the proposals made by the Family Justice Review are delivered,” said Hughes. “But this is not the end of the process I want to continue to work with David Norgrove, so we have a family justice system which has the welfare of children at its heart.”

Part of the reforms will enable justice clerks and their assistants to take some of the pressure off judges by overseeing less complex cases. Care cases will also have a 26 week deadline to reach a resolution.

Another major change to the process will see family mediation meetings become compulsory, enabling the majority of cases to be solved without the need for court intervention. With 73% of cases between April-December 2013 successfully mediated before reaching court, this will lessen the pressure on the system.

“Every child deserves a safe and stable home – no matter what their background or starting point in life,” said Children and Families Minister Edward Timpson. “The new 26 week time limit will reduce unnecessary delays by ensuring that judges focus on the facts without getting caught up in unnecessary evidence or bureaucracy. These reforms will mean a swifter system where children’s best interests are placed – where they rightly should be – at the heart of decision making.”

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